Category Archives: Visiting Speakers

Student Life Speaker: Trust the Mind to Self-Correct

Garret Kramer in front of a white board with illustrations of two states of mind
Garret Kramer in front of a white board with illustrations of two states of mind

Williston’s first student life speaker to discuss this year’s theme of Emotional Fitness, Garret Kramer, addressed an assembly in the Phillips Stevens Chapel on September 30. Kramer, founder of Inner Sports, has coached athletes and corporate clients, and is the author of two books, Stillpower: Excellence with Ease in Sports and Life, and The Path of No Resistance: Why Overcoming is Simpler than You Think.

His basic thesis is that our minds are sometimes cluttered with thoughts. That’s when we feel insecure and disconnected. At other times, our minds are clear. That’s when we feel confident and can connect with our passions. Both these states are normal, and we move back and forth from what he called state A (the cluttered mind) to state B (the clear mind). Difficulty arises, he posited, when we resist the up and down nature of this cycle, and when we don’t realize that external circumstances don’t cause the back-and-forth. “We work in-to-out, not out-to-in, even though it’s quite normal to think the opposite is true,” he said.

Kramer called this natural ability to self-correct our “psychological immune system.” To illustrate, he described a toddler having a tantrum. This toddler will eventually calm down and move into a clear state of mind. The toddler didn’t “think” his way to this new state of mind. It just happened, and he or she let it happen. “A toddler doesn’t obstruct the psychological immune system.”

Student approached Kramer after the speech to further the discussion.

Kramer’s talk spurred many questions, and some push-back, from students. One questioned how external circumstances, such as a death in the family, could not affect one’s state of mind. Kramer said there is a correlation between the sadness we feel at someone’s death or any tragedy, but the circumstance doesn’t cause the feeling. Another student asked what Kramer his source for his information. “Truth,” he answered, citing leaders such as Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela who have spoken about this phenomenon.

Student Harrison Winrow ’18 appreciated both the talk, and the robust give-and-take between Kramer and the audience. “I was inspired to see how passionate members of the student body and faculty were today, inciting lengthy dialogue and insightful debate all around campus for the hours following assembly,” he said.

Students and faculty will have more opportunities to discuss and think about the theme of Emotional Fitness at upcoming advisory meetings and class assemblies this term.

Commencement Launches 132 Graduates

commencement
Photo by Joanna Chattman

Why would you want to leave Williston? That was the question Head of School Robert Hill III put to graduating seniors during Williston Northampton School’s 175th  Commencement ceremony, which took place under a tent on the Quad on May 29. (See the links below for comprehensive coverage.)

Mr. Hill went on to describe the transition graduates were about to engage in as they move past their late adolescent years and enter the adult world. He added that their education at Williston Northampton School had fully prepared them for this next step.

Commencement speaker Nonie Creme ’90, in an authentic and inspiring speech that drew an enthusiastic response from the audience, further illustrated how a Williston education served her throughout her career and life. Creme, an entrepreneur who has started two successful beauty product companies, described herself as a “really messed up teenager,” and began her story in a Santa Fe jail where she ended up after running away from her Texas home. As she tells it, the choice between boarding school and jail was a “no brainer.”

Head of School Robert W. Hill III addresses the assembly. Photo by Joanna Chattman
Head of School Robert W. Hill III addresses the assembly./Photo by Joanna Chattman

Here at Williston, she reinvented herself from a “Southern yokel in mom jeans” (or so she felt) who didn’t know how to use the washing machines in the basement of her dorm, to a cigarette-smoking Goth girl who would steal away to New York City and frequent punk clubs on breaks from school. It was at Williston where she met her “tribe.” “I retain more friendships from Williston than from any other period in my life and I’ve lived, people,” she said. “That’s proof of how critical this place is, and how critical these relationships are to you at this stage of your life.”

After Williston, she studied art at Scripps College and then followed a boy to London, where, by day, she camped out in the Underground with her nail polish supplies and sold desk-side manicures to executives. Soon fashion-lovers sought out her polish mixes. From there, she became the founding creative director of Butter London, a high-end cosmetics company. After experiencing success there, she left to found Nonie Creme Colour Prevails, selling creatively packaged makeup for the mass market at drug stores around the country.

But she never abandoned her punk aesthetic. “It’s not lost on me that there are many people out there who might say a woman who won’t dye her hair and wears a skinhead and a septum ring doesn’t belong in the beauty industry, and certainly couldn’t be the meaningful Founder of a multi-million dollar business,” she said.

Commencement speaker Nonie Creme '90/Photo by Joanna Chattman
Commencement speaker Nonie Creme ’90/Photo by Joanna Chattman

“Well, because of the love and support I received right here at Williston,” she told the audience, “I have the confidence to say ‘Screw you, I can do anything I want.’ And so can you, and so WILL you.”

Creme’s address was followed by the announcement of prizes, which were bestowed at a ceremony the previous day and the induction of 12 students into the Cum Laude Society.

Following the presentation of diplomas to the 132 graduates present (one graduating senior was not able to be at the event) by Board Chairman John Hazen White Jr., Senior Class Speaker Christopher Hudson gave his address.

Hudson asked his classmates to focus on three concepts: discipline, forgiveness, and attitude, and told them to stay positive and be grateful for the education they received at Williston.

Congratulations to the phenomenal Class of 2016!


Please see the following links for more on 2016 Commencement:

 

 

 

 

 

Social Justice Scholar Marcella Runell Hall to Present MLK Day Keynote

The Mount Holyoke dean will talk about social justice storytelling
Courtesy of www.marcellarunellhall.org
Courtesy of www.marcellarunellhall.org

A social justice scholar and noted author will present the keynote address at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day assembly at the Williston Northampton School on Monday, January 18.

Marcella Runell Hall, the dean of students at Mount Holyoke College, will present “Storytelling for Social Justice,” which will encourage students to define the term “ally,” explore what it means to have multiple social identities, and practice the power of storytelling.

Dr. Hall is the author of three award-winning books: “The Hip-Hop Education Guidebook: Volume 1,” with Martha Diaz; “Conscious Women Rock the Page: Using Hip-Hop Fiction to Incite Social Change;” and “Love, Race, and Liberation: ‘Til the White Day Is Done” with Jennifer “JLove” Calderon.

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Kate Nocera ’01 Presents Cum Laude Keynote

The former political reporter offered advice on the dos and don'ts of a successful career

23855136824_b5fee16222_zThere was a point during Kate Nocera’s time at the Williston Northampton School when it was doubtful that she would even graduate.

In her keynote address for this year’s Cum Laude Ceremony, Ms. Nocera, a former political journalist, talked about how she went from a fixture in the Dean of Student’s Office, to accepting her diploma with Cum Laude honors.

“My actual favorite memory from Williston was being at graduation and hearing them calling the names of the Cum Laude inductees, and hearing my name among them,” Ms. Nocera recalled.

The Cum Laude ceremony, which honors 12 seniors who have excelled academically, was held on Friday, January 16, at 8:30 a.m. in the Phillips Stevens Chapel.

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How to Create an Animated TV Pilot

Award-winning Director Chris Perry Will Talk to Williston Students About His Newest Show
Photo courtesy of Hampshire.edu
Photo courtesy of Hampshire.edu

An award-winning screenwriter, director, and producer—who created CG fire for Pixar and won a technical Oscar for animation software behind “Life of Pi”—will talk about his creative process with students at the Williston Northampton School on Monday, December 14.

Chris Perry, a former Williston parent, will walk students through a show that’s currently in development. The yet-to-be-named animated adventure, set on a future Earth where evolution has gone bananas, was created with help from the Williston Theatre program. (Mr. Perry notes that some of animated characters are voiced by Williston students.)

Mr. Perry and members of his crew will share how they’ve taken the show from a fledgling concept to a fully realized test. The presentation will touch upon writing, voice acting, design, film, animation, and the business of producing a TV series. A Q&A will follow.

“I hope our students get some insight into how a TV pilot (in this can an animated one) gets produced, shopped around, etc.,” noted Director of the Williston Theatre Emily Ditkovski in an email. “Looks like it will be really fun.”

Mr. Perry is a professor at Hampshire College and the founder of Bit Films, an independent studio in Western Massachusetts. He has over 20 years of film experience, including as a programmer and generalist technical director in VFX and feature animation. Mr. Perry has an M.S. degree from the MIT Media Laboratory and an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Any Williston students and interested Williston parents are welcome to attend this presentation, which will take place in the Williston Theatre. Please contact Ms. Ditkovski with questions.